Winners of the national Eater Young Guns 2017 awards were just announced and chef Jesse Ito of Royal Sushi & Izakaya in Queen Village earned a spot on the list. The awards go to rising stars in the restaurant industry. The catch? They must be under 30 or have less than five years of experience. This year, Eater received more than 1,000 nominations, including chefs, bar managers, restaurateurs, distillers, and more, in 101 cities across the U.S. and Canada.
Ito, 28, learned the art of sushi-making from his father, Masaharu (Matt) Ito, at Fuji in South Jersey. The father and son now own Royal Sushi & Izakaya with Stephen Simons and David Frank, the pair behind several Philly hotspots including Khyber Pass, Royal Tavern, and Cantina Los Caballitos, plus Nick Elmi’s upcoming bar in Old City. The restaurateurs originally had another chef signed on to the long-in-the-works Royal Sushi & Izakaya, but the project was delayed and the chef moved on, making way for Ito.
In an Eater Young Guns profile of Ito, Amy McKeever writes:
Ito had been waiting for the opportunity. Even in his mid-twenties he knew he didn’t want to take Fuji over from his father since, as he says, “I’m a big believer in not trying to fill shoes you can’t fill.” But he had entertained offers. He had earned his own sterling reputation apprenticing under his demanding father, learning knife skills and even perfecting his posture by holding an egg under his armpit while slicing fish to ensure his arm wasn’t too close or too far from his side. As his general manager Cristina Tessaro wrote in his nomination, Ito’s skilled knifework made dining at his sushi bar “an almost show-like experience.”